"Death is a part of life on the ranch", says Black Colorado rancher Courtney Mallery when he finds a dead yearling cow with blood frozen at its nose and mouth by the fence that surrounds his land. "But usually, you see it coming."

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Farming in Peace: Black Land Defenders

Olga Fedorova | El Paso County, Colorado, United States

In February 2023, Black armed self-defense activists gathered at the Freedom Acres Ranch in El Paso County, Colorado in support of Courtney and Nicole Mallery, a family of Black ranchers reportedly faced with an onsalught of racist threats and incidents. 

“Death is a part of life on the ranch. But usually, you see it coming - it happens at birth or follows signs of disease,” says rancher Courtney Mallery as he stands over a yearling Hartford cow found dead at the boundary of his land.

This is, by far, not the first suspicious death at the Mallerys’ Freedom Acres Ranch. Since buying the land in 2020, the couple reported numerous incidents of cattle mutilation, theft, menacing, and trespassing on their property.
An egress located on the Mallerys’ land became a focal point in a land dispute with one of their white neighbours. While both placed numerous calls to sheriff’s department, only the white neighbour’s complaints were investigated. This has been confirmed by the sheriff’s department.
Black Lives Matter flags around the couple’s property have been torn and removed, and they received threats on social media. One screenshot shows a social media post that refers to the Black Lives Matter flags as “in-your-face bullshit” and calls for “fire and pitchforks.” 

These events are taking place in the context of multiple incidents of white supremacist violence, including mass shootings. The FBI consistently names white supremacists as a number one domestic terrorist threat.

The road to Freedom Acres Ranch lies past miles upon miles of prairie, at times marred with rusting remains of farming equipment and abandoned houses leaning under the weight of age and disrepair. There are no street signs and phone signal is spotty. At one point, it changes to SOS. Sitting behind the wheel of a rented pick-up, Hawk Newsome draws a parallel between the harassment and threats directed at the Mallorys and racially motivated massacres, murders, and destruction of Black communities in the 20th century and beyond.

This time, the community is determined to defend their own by any means necessary.

The rifles and handguns used to patrol the territory are licensed and legal to openly carry in the state of Colorado. Many volunteers are veterans of the US armed forces. Nevertheless, taking into account disparate treatment of Black people thought to be in possession of a firearm by the police, the activists consider this to be a dangerous mission.

(For context, in August 2014, John Crawford III was shot and killed by the police inside an Ohio Walmart as he was holding a BB gun he picked up at the store. No one was held responsible for his death. Philando Castille was shot and killed during a traffic stop immediately after telling the officer he was in legal possession of a firearm. The officer was found not guilty of manslaughter.)

Courtney Mallery was reportedly told by the El Paso County Sheriff’s department that he could only inspect the perimeter of his property twice a year. In response, the armed self-defense activists conduct nightly patrols of the perimeter. They sleep in a military-style tent purchased through a donation drive organized by Black Opportunities and keep warm with camp stoves.

One night, the camp is put on high alert when an unknown car drives up to the fence and shines its high beams into the property. When Hawk and Nadir drive up to the fence, the car is gone.




Olga Fedorova


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